I think I’ve written before about the odd little ways that I can measure my level of depression, since my overall perspective on my moods (and, really, life in general) gets skewed. I play too many mindless Windows games – or, this time around, an old Nintendo game on an emulator, Bubble Bobble. I don’t read anything new, I’ll just reread the same mindless books over and over. I don’t write emails as often, and when I read them they often disappear into some weird mindlessness ether and when I reread them a week later they are totally new to me.
The trend, of course, is mindlessness. It’s not something I’m proud of. But I unconsciously strive to just let time pass. Just get through a day, don’t engage in thought, wait for it to end so that you can get up the next day and start again. A passive, isolative approach to life, which I hate even while I’m drawn into it.
Another way it manifests is in my utter lack of photographic impulses. I have a very nice camera, and to justify the expense of it I try to take photos of pretty much everything. Or, at least, I do when I’m feeling normal – whatever that means – and actively involved in my life.
When depressed, though, I just don’t have that tendency to reach for the camera. Part of it is apathy and lethargy, and part of it is an extension of the quest for mindlessness. Don’t memorialize this, don’t get too involved in the moment, just let it slip by and be done.
My Flickr account provides a pretty clear chronology of my recent moods. November, job-loss month: 17 photos. From the entire month. I was quite effectively shut down for the second half of the month. December looks like an anomaly, with 231 photos, but upon closer inspection, a huge chunk of those came from L’s baby shower, at which Willem served as official photographer to catch each gift as it was unwrapped. There were a bunch from the ice storm – no electricity, gotta do something – and then, regardless of mood, I know to take a lot of photos at Christmas and when visiting relatives we don’t see often. Guaranteed, without the holidays and events, it would have been a shutter-minimal sort of month.
January, 75 photos – but 45 of them had to do with K’s birth. Left to my own devices, there would only have been 30 photos.
And then came February. February was by far the worst month. I had started to convince myself that it just made sense that no one would be hiring right around the holidays, so I was geared up to get a job very quickly after the New Year… and, nothing. I was coming to terms with the diagnosis of spondylitis and the threat of a harsher, debilitating spinal problem somewhere down the line. I was informed that I had reached the end of my OB-GYN’s ability to test and assist in fertility, and was referred to a reproductive endocrinologist… only to discover that our insurance doesn’t cover any fertility treatments at all. So I had to wrap my brain around the idea that, until Willem or I get a new job with better insurance, I have very little chance of getting pregnant, and nobody knows why.
February was a hard, hard month. It often works out to be one of the hardest months of the year, but this one was particularly brutal. Thirty-two photographs seemed like more than enough, and Willem took several of them, because I just couldn’t dredge up sufficient give-a-damn.
In mid-February, I realized just how unwell I was, and started taking Zoloft. Antidepressants take 4-6 weeks to reach clinical effectiveness, so a lot of March was similarly difficult and dark. I did take a bunch of photos when we took the kids to the Children’s Museum, but only because I wanted to be able to show L how her girls had spent the day while she dealt with the gun thing. I think that weekend, the one right after St. Patrick’s Day, was probably about the lowest I got. I’m sure it was entirely coincidental that it happened on the same weekend as a mother-in-law visit.
But then, in late March, the meds kicked in. Slowly, subtly, so that I didn’t really notice at first. It took a week before I realized I hadn’t cried in days, that I was getting out of bed easier, even that I was having less pain as some of the tension and anxiety lessened. It took two or three more weeks before I started to trust that I really might be getting better. I’m still worried that this is just a temporary improvement, with crash to follow, but I can’t seem to stave off the hope. Hope has become a scary, dangerous thing, after so many rejections and disappointments and hurts. But it seems to have poked its head out of the ground, ready or not.
And thus it is that I already have 129 photos in April. Some noteworthy events – weekend at Mom’s, Emily’s birthday – helped spur that on, but I’ve been taking more photos, and more detailed, careful ones. I’ve been engaging more in my own life. And I’m starting to want to remember how my days were spent. (I’m still wasting plenty of time in other mindless pursuits, so there’s a ways to go yet. And I hope I don’t let go of all of the goofy time-wasters, because sometimes you just need that.)
I’m still scared of the hope, but it feels so much better than the despair.